Verbal or Oral?

You probably see it as often as I do: “I verbally told him to….” The command might be to get out of the car, open her purse, hand over his driver’s license, or something similar.

But verbal is meaningless in sentences like this. Verbal means “using words.” It’s not a synonym for oral. Verbal communication can include writing, texting, emailing, and writing in chalk on a sidewalk.

When you’re careful to use oral for spoken commands, you portray yourself as a professional – a good thing!

And here’s something else to think about. Do you really need “oral”?

Imagine this situation: An officer calls her husband to confirm plans for dinner with some friends. “Do the Johnsons know what time to meet us at the Olive Garden?” He assures her that they do: “I told them to be there at 6:30.”

He doesn’t need to say, “I verbally told them to be there at 6:30.”

Police jargon (“verbally”) is often unnecessary. It wastes time, and it looks odd when someone outside of law enforcement (a judge, attorney, community leader, reporter) reads your reports. Think twice when you’re tempted to slip into jargon!

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